Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Update: Prescribe or Refer: No More Jeanette Halls

Margaret Dore, Esq., MBA
By Margaret Dore Esq., MBA

A Wisconsin bill seeking to legalize assisted suicide, requires the patient's attending physician to "prescribe or refer" i.e., to write a lethal prescription for the purpose of killing the patient, 
or to make an effective referral to another physician, who will do it.

The bill, AB 216, also says that the attending physician's failure to comply is "unprofessional conduct" such that the physician would be subject to discipline. The bill states:
[F]ailure of an attending physician to fulfill a request for medication [the lethal dose] constitutes unprofessional conduct if the attending physician refuses or fails to make a good faith attempt to transfer the requester's care and treatment to another physician who will act as attending physician under this chapter and fulfill the request for medication. (Emphasis added).*
A significance of prescribe or refer is that it's anti-patient, by not allowing doctors to use their best judgment for individual patients.


Think of Oregonian Jeanette Hall. In 2000, she made a settled decision to use Oregon's assisted suicide law in lieu of being treated for cancer. Her doctor, Kenneth Stevens, who opposed assisted suicide, thought that her chances with treatment were good. He stalled her request for assisted suicide and finally convinced her to be treated for cancer.

Yes, Dr Stevens was against assisted suicide generally, but he also thought that Jeanette was a great candidate for treatment, and indeed she was. She has been cancer free for 17 years. In a article from last year, Jeanette states

I wanted to do our law and I wanted Dr. Stevens to help me. Instead, he encouraged me to not give up and ultimately I decided to fight the cancer. I had both chemotherapy and radiation. I am so happy to be alive!
With "prescribe or refer," Dr Stevens would have been risking his license, and therefore his livelihood to help Jeanette understand what her true options were.

Is this what we want for doctors, to have them be afraid of giving us their best judgment, for fear of losing their jobs?


This is a particularly sensitive issue for me because it happened to me, but in another context. 

When I was in law school, I went to an optometrist who knew what was wrong with my eyes and also where to refer me for treatment with another optometrist. He didn't refer me because he worked for ophthalmologists and had previously been disciplined for giving a similar referral.

I spent the next six months of my life on a wild goose chase trying to find someone to help me so that I could get back to school. I finally found the other optometrist, but with the delay, I had further damaged my eyes. I graduated two years late.


With mandatory "prescribe or refer," assisted suicide proponents show us their true nature. They don't want to enhance our choice, they want to limit our access to information to railroad us to death.

I hope that Wisconsin will reject the proposed bill. 

______

*  The bill, AB 216, states:
156.21 Duties and immunities. (1) No health care facility or health care provider may be charged with a crime, held civilly liable, or charged with unprofessional conduct for any of the following: 
(a) Failing to fulfill a request for medication, except that failure of an attending physician to fulfill a request for medication constitutes unprofessional conduct if the attending physician refuses or fails to make a good faith attempt to transfer the requester's care and treatment to another physician who will act as attending physician under this chapter and fulfill the request for medication. (Emphasis added).
Margaret Dore is an attorney in Washington State where assisted suicide is legal. She is also president of Choice is an Illusion, a nonprofit corporation opposed to assisted suicide and euthanasia worldwide.